Emergency vets warn owners to avoid cheap treats

A bargain bone almost killed a pet dog after it became lodged in her gullet just above the heart.

The mammoth bone, measuring almost six inches long, was obstructing the breathing of nine-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Diva.

Owner James Egan, 37, feared he was going to lose the dog that has become an essential companion, helping him deal with ongoing health issues.

James, from Carntyne in Glasgow, has had gentle-natured Diva since she was just four weeks old.

But disaster struck after normally cautious James bought a pack of bones from a cut-price shop and Diva wolfed one down whole before he could stop her.

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  1. A bone to pick

    Nine-year-old Diva needed life-saving treatment after a bone she had scoffed became lodged above her heart.

  2. A bone to pick

    Nine-year-old Diva needed life-saving treatment after a bone she had scoffed became lodged above her heart.

  3. A bone to pick

    Nine-year-old Diva needed life-saving treatment after a bone she had scoffed became lodged above her heart.

“I knew right away that something was badly wrong,” said James. “She was struggling to breathe and I was desperate for help.

“I got virtually my whole hand down her throat but I couldn’t reach it. I even Googled the Heimlich manoeuvre to see if that could help and my neighbours came in to try, too.

“But nothing worked and she was making an awful noise and really struggling. It was horrible.”

James contacted the PDSA branch in Tollcross, Glasgow, who advised contacting out-of-hours pet emergency service Vets Now.

Our Glasgow hospital, in the city’s North Street, is one of a nationwide network of clinics and hospitals open through the night, seven days a week, and day and night at weekends and bank holidays.

Emergency vet Simon Patchett, who treated Diva, said: “When we did X-rays of her chest, they clearly showed this large bone sitting in the oesophagus just above the heart

“After discussing our options with Diva’s owner, we made the decision, which wasn’t without risks, to perform an endoscopy and try to remove the bone.

“We finally managed to get some traction and pull it towards the mouth to a point where long forceps were able to grasp it and remove it completely.

“The bone was 14cm long and 5cm in diameter and without doubt one of the biggest we’ve ever seen. Thankfully, there was no debris left and no other damage.”

  1. The damage

    The bone was one of the biggest the staff had ever seen, measuring 14cm long and 5cm in diameter.

  2. The damage

    The bone was one of the biggest the staff had ever seen, measuring 14cm long and 5cm in diameter.

Our vets and vet nurses regularly see dogs with digestive tract damage and blockages caused by large pieces of bone being swallowed and becoming stuck.

In many cases, surgery is required to remove the bone and, occasionally, the blockage can be fatal. As a result, Vets Now does not recommend bones as treats.

For James, the wait between Diva being admitted to hospital and given the all-clear was agonising.

“The vet had to tell me the worst-case scenario and it was just awful,” said James.

“My whole family came because they know how much she means to me. I suffer from mental health problems and Diva is a real emotional support. She seems to have a sixth sense when I need her.

“I thought I was going lose her and I was blaming myself, feeling that she was in this situation because of something I’d done wrong.

“It was such a relief when I got the call to tell me that she’d come through it okay. I’m just so grateful to Vets Now for what they did.

“It was also a relief to have someone there to turn to at night when I needed them. Without them, she’d be dead and I don’t know where my life would have been without her.

“The vet did ask if I wanted to keep the bone, but I never wanted to see it again.”

Image of Diva the Staffordshire bull terrier and he owner for Vets Now article on dog ate bone
Thankfully Diva recovered from her ordeal and is back home with her owner James (Copyright Vets Now)

Diva made a remarkably speedy recovery after her ordeal and was soon back to eating as normal.

But James is now even more cautious about what he gives her and urges other owners to do likewise.

“I’m always so careful and have always checked nutrition content of whatever she eats,” he adds.

“It was so scary to think I almost lost her by buying something cheap and unsuitable and it just goes to show you can never be too careful.

“It was a horrible experience and I’d never give her anything like that again.”

Several pet food firms market raw bones as being good additions to a raw or natural diet, claiming they provide nutritional benefits for both cats and dogs.

However, some supermarkets removed them from the shelves following a number of fatalities and near misses, including the death of a two-year-old miniature schnauzer who fell ill after a ham bone became lodged in his stomach.

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